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Welcome to the Sonoma County Gazette ARCHIVE of PAST EDITIONS. Our NEW WEBSITE is up and running, so GazExtra is serving as your path to archived articles. Thanks for being part of our Sonoma County community...stay in touch...e-mail me - VESTA

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Vacation at Home Part 3

Summer is almost over and kids are heading back to school, tourists are going home and we're all trying to get our last licks in before the rains start - please let the rains start! NOW is the time to get out on the roads and reclaim our home. We are so blessed!

Welcome Home
By Alan Joseph

Here we go again, another unsolicited testimonial for exploring the wonders in our own back yard. After the first two tours, I have been cornered by enthusiastic readers who advise, “You should try…” or “The best place is….” So I am offering up a double feature of reader recommendations along with some of my favorites. Find Star #1 on the handy map, fire up your pony and let’s get rolling.

#3 Coleman Valley Road: Steve and China make their home in Graton and come Sunday, you’ll find them tending their garden. But as the afternoon shadows grow long, they’ll exchange a wink and agree: it’s time for Calamari at the Coast. Let’s take their suggestion and head west out of town on Graton Road. Up and over the hill, you’ll drop into a narrow valley, pass the Dutton Ranch and bend to the right on your way to Occidental.

Cresting the ridge, you’ll drift into open pasture land dotted with cows and the occasional llama; the trees up ahead will guide you into Occidental. Turn left at the stop sign and just beyond Negri’s Restaurant, you’ll find Coleman Valley Road on your right. This little gem climbs steeply out of town, leveling out with views across high meadows. The pavement will meander for a while and then bear to the left, bringing you to a “T” in the road marked by a hand painted sign that simply says, “Ocean.” That’s an understatement; the next 8 miles are simply amazing.
This is Sonoma County at its undeveloped best, a chance to ride through land that hasn’t changed much since I first rode here 35 years ago. The same can be said for the pavement, which is pretty choppy at times. This is a narrow, undivided road with no shoulder to speak of, so watch for the occasional truck or bicycle coming your way. You’ll curl through quiet valleys, tunnel through overhanging forests, climb hills covered in giant oaks and rise up where the views go on forever.

These vistas are some of the best in the County, sometimes you can see all the way to Mount Diablo. Approaching the crest of the hill, you’ll cross a cattle guard and the fences will simply vanish. You may find yourself sharing the road with a bovine buddy, slow down and give ‘em room, this is their home, after all. The road tilts downhill, the land falls away to the coast and the horizon line surrenders to the Pacific Ocean. At the summit, there’s a dirt pull-off, but there’s so little traffic, you can probably just pause on the road. Like the saying goes, on a clear day, you can see forever.

The pavement winds steeply down to Highway 1, turn left and you’ll soon be looking down the long beach where Salmon Creek flows into the ocean. Vesta and I were here last week and rode right by the perfect photo opportunity; we’ve regretted it ever since. Well, we were distracted, thinking about something to eat in Bodega Bay.

Satisfaction was found at Lucas Wharf, four miles down the coast, perched on the bay just to your right. Take a seat at the bar and say hello to Henry, he’s that tall drink of water with a flair for mixing drinks. Now’s the time for that Calamari, maybe with a Caesar salad and some French bread. If that doesn’t suit you, the manager, Michelle, will be happy to suggest something to go along with the world class views. Whatever your taste, gaze out on Bodega Bay and thank your lucky stars you live near such a place. I trust you can find your way home by heading inland to the town of Bodega; you ought to be old friends by now.

#4 Tomales Bay and Point Reyes Station: And talking about old friends, please find Star #2, it’s the town of Tomales and the start of our next Two Wheel Tour. Chuck is a Sonoma County Sheriff who rides a BMW GS, a long legged bike known for journeys on and off road. He recommends the turkey sandwich with dressing at the Tomales Deli, says it’s like Thanksgiving all year long. It’s the perfect warm up for the amazing ride on Highway 1, down along Tomales Bay.

Now I’ve been asked why I love motorcycles so much. Well, you drive a car but you ride a motorcycle, and the best ride is when you and your bike move as one. Add a great road and you have the ingredients for magic. Flowing along the Estero, Highway 1 is indeed a great road. The turns are graceful and the pavement is perfect; this road has rhythm. Lean to your left and roll through the corner, lean to your right and roll through the next. You and your bike fly through the air in a swaying motion unique to two wheels. And they say white men can’t dance.

But beware, as you make your way down to the shoreline, “Deer Crossing” signs are posted everywhere. Last month I was on this stretch around dusk, just having a grand old time. I came flying around a turn only to find Bambi and his mother straddling the center line, wide eyed and frozen in place. Throw on the binders and dodge, brother! Watch for movement in the brush and remember to cover your brakes. Hit one of these darlings and it will ruin everyone’s day.

Despite the deer, this amazing highway is one of my all time favorites. Dipping in and out along the bay, your Two Wheel Guru predicts you’ll be leaned over and smiling big time. Here’s another reason to smile: 8 miles down the coast you’ll find Tony’s Seafood Restaurant. You know me, I like my eateries a little seasoned, with waitresses who ask, “What can I get for ya, Hon?” Open only on weekends, Tony’s has been serving up oysters and fresh seafood since 1948; funky and friendly, my kind of place.

Across the water, the Pt. Reyes Peninsula rises behind the town of Inverness, offering up a lesson in plate tectonics; the San Andreas Fault runs straight through the bay. You are on the North American Plate; the Pacific Plate is across the water on its way to Alaska; moving very slowly. In 1906, the San Andreas lost patience and ruptured, sending the far side of the bay 20 feet north in one BIG jolt. Before the next one hits, let’s get shakin’ to Point Reyes Station.

The town got its name from the Spanish explorer Sebastian Vizcaino, who landed his ship just over the hill in Drake’s Bay in 1603, a long time ago. The original version was “Punto de los Reyes,” meaning the Point of the Kings. The “Station” was added in 1871 when it became a stop on the North Pacific Coast Railroad running from Cazadero to Sausalito. From there the ferry carried timber, grain and produce over to San Francisco. In exchange, city residents traveled north on the “Railroad to the Redwoods” to visit the wilds of Sonoma County. Apparently, the idea caught on.

Nowadays, Point Reyes Station is a busy hub of tourist activity, especially on weekends. It’s also one of the few places to get gas, on your right when you enter town. Turn left onto Main St. and you’ll notice quite a gathering in front of the Bovine Bakery. Known to locals and visitors alike, this family enterprise has ‘em lined out the door. Along with fresh coffee, you will find a tantalizing array of baked delights; their Bear Claws are particularly persuasive.

The town has lots of opportunities for retail therapy, but my favorite is Marty Knapp’s Photography Gallery, one block down the street. Marty has spent a lifetime creating black and white images capturing the unique beauty of this area. I’ve collected his work for years and always look forward to stopping in to say hello and see what’s new. I suggest you do the same.
Well, enough of this big city life. Head back up the hill, turn right and you’ll be riding past Black Mountain towards Petaluma. You should turn left just after you cross the purple bridge. The road rolls through tree lined canyons and then winds past the Nicasio Reservoir. Up ahead, there’s a tall sign on your left, it’s the Marin French Cheese Company. Talk about history, they’ve been hand making cheese since Abraham Lincoln was president. Founded in 1865, this is the oldest cheese manufacturer in the country, quite impressive, so is their cheese. Surrounded by willow trees, the picturesque pond is the perfect setting for a picnic with your sweetheart, she’ll be amazed at your good taste and refinement.

Back on the road, you will be heading east towards Petaluma, but not for long; turn left on Hicks Road in about a mile. This is wide open ranch land, more or less untouched for decades. In 3 miles you’ll turn right on Wilson Hill Road and climb to the top; and what a top it is. Stop at the summit and take in the view of golden hills stretching out into the distance. Come back next spring and you’ll find the land cloaked in green velvet, beautiful indeed.

Down the mountain, the road levels out and curls through oak studded farmland. You should be looking for Chileno Valley Road on your left in about 2 miles. Now bear with me, because here the story takes a turn. You see, I’m not a religious person, not the type to worship in a church. But on any given Sunday, you’ll find me riding through these valleys giving my thanks to God. I can’t explain why this place moves me so, but they say a picture is worth a thousand words.
Chileno Valley is a place of remarkable peace and tranquility, an outdoor cathedral. But this sanctuary will end all too soon. In about 10 miles, you’ll turn left on Petaluma-Tomales Road, and head back to where we started. But as you return, I hope something of this place stays with you, I know it stays with me all my days. My thanks to Vesta and the West County Gazette for helping with this invitation to discover and enjoy this wonderful place we call home.

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Gravel Mining in the Russian River

Russian River at Risk…Yet Again Continued Gravel Mining Threatens Our River Valley Aquifer

September 16 Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Hearing

In a state where water is our most precious commodity - and rivers are few and far between - and aggregate can be mined from land instead of a river bed - and this very river, the Russian River is center to our economy in more ways than we can count - it make no sense to turn back to a time when we ignored our environment to obtain natural resources. - V

By Dennis Hill and Chris DeBenedetti
Westside Association to Save Agriculture

For more than 20 years farmers and residents along the Middle Reach of the Russian River Valley have been fighting the devastating effects of gravel mining in the terraces. Thirty percent of the aquifer has been destroyed over the last 40 years from gravel mining. Now it is beginning to negatively affect groundwater flow and wine grape quality.

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors has historically approved all of Syar’s requests with the argument that the need for gravel is more important than the negative effects on water supply. That is clearly no longer true. There are other sources of PCC-quality gravel and water is now recognized as a more precious commodity. The supervisors are scheduled to vote Aug. 19 on whether to amend the 1994 Aggregate Resources Management (ARM) Plan, which banned terrace mining after 2006 because of its well-chronicled negative effects on the environment.

But there are many other reasons why the people of Sonoma and Marin Counties should strongly oppose Syar's application. We ask you to consider:

Breaking the ARM Plan's promises to farmers and vintners would set a very bad legal precedent for the County. After all, what would stop the strip miners from coming back again and again once that door is re-opened? What would prevent other well-connected and powerful special interests from doing the same? According to the ARM Plan, the mining firms were supposed to be limited to 100 acres, and companies like Syar were supposed to reclaim the pits. But as long as they can keep mining, they are not required to reclaim them. Reversing the law against terrace mining would be yet another broken promise by Sonoma County officials.

Allowing strip-mining gravel will destroy the aquifer and rob the County of fresh water, a resource so scarce and increasingly valuable that experts are calling it the “new oil.” This would hurt the County's economy, not help it. The Russian River Valley grows world-renowned Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes. The gravel pits are creating undesirable water table conditions for high quality grape growing. Damaging these grapes would damage the County's tourism industry and bring unwanted negative media attention that would badly hurt the region's reputation as an agricultural and environmental leader. In short, there is a thin line between paradise and “Paradise Lost.” A 'yes' vote for Syar would irrevocably cross that line.

We don't want to see one person lose his or her job. But, the few jobs that might be impacted would be offset many times over by the increases in tourism, agriculture and wine production. In fact, maintaining the ban is good economic news for the County because it would provide more jobs and tax revenue for the County's coffers than gravel ever could generate over time. Why? Because grape growing is a sustainable industry; that is, wineries and vintners can harvest the crops year after year, decade after decade, and the Russian River Valley alone employs thousands of workers each year. This economically thriving, environmentally friendly and tourist-yielding industry in the area would be damaged over time if Syar gets its way. Gravel, in contrast, is unsustainable. You mine it once, and only once, and all that's left is a useless pit that is a liability for which future generations will have to pay.

The EIR of the proposed extension of the mining period, states that [not extending] gravel mining is the environmentally superior option. The Supervisors have the rare opportunity to make a decision that both benefits the environment and is the most economically wise decision.

For all of these reasons, we fail to see why Syar Industries' application should be approved. Simply put, the Napa-based company has failed to provide the adequate level of proof necessary to illustrate why the ban on mining should be lifted. Indeed, the facts reflect that lifting the ban will damage the Russian River Valley's long-term tax revenue and rob a key portion of Sonoma County's agricultural strength and its precious resources. In October 1994, Supervisor Tim Smith said that there would be no way he would approve terrace mining to continue for more than ten years. It is now 14 years later and we are still fighting. On September 16, we will see if the Supervisors will keep their promise.

Please contact the Supervisors and ask them to support the ban on terrace mining. Their e-mail addresses may be found online at
Dennis Hill and Chris DeBenedetti
Westside Association to Save Agriculture

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Friday, August 8, 2008

Rainwater Harvesting

Turning Water Scarcity into Water Abundance
A slide show and book signing with Brad Lancaster!
Monday, Sept. 8th, 2008 - 7:30 pm at the Occidental Arts & Ecology Center’s – North Garden Stage
This is an outdoor location – please dress accordingly

Get out your shovels and dance in the rain!

That is what Brad Lancaster’s second volume in his trilogy on Rainwater Harvesting will make you want to do.

Rainwater Harvesting Earthworks are one of the easiest, least expensive, and most effective ways of passively harvesting and conserving multiple sources of water in the soil. Building on the information presented in Volume 1, Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Vol 2, shows you how to select, place, size, construct, and plant your chosen water-harvesting earthworks. It presents detailed how-to information and variations of a diverse array of earthworks, including chapters on mulch, vegetation, and greywater recycling so you can customize the techniques to the unique requirements of your site. Returns come in the form of beauty, food, shelter, wildlife habitat, and passive heating and cooling strategies, while controlling erosion, increasing soil fertility, reducing downstream flooding, and improving water and air quality.

Brad Lancaster has been active teaching, designing, and consulting on the sustainable design system of Permaculture & integrated rainwater harvesting systems since 1993. He lives what he teaches on a thriving, award-winning eighth of an acre urban Permaculture site he created in downtown Tucson, Arizona.

Suggested donation of $5 to $10 to support Brad’s great work! No one turned away for lack of funds! Plan on buying and having autographed by Brad several copies of the book for holiday gifts!!

This event sponsored by the Occidental Arts & Ecology Center’s WATER Institute
For more information call: 707-874-1557 x 206. For directions to OAEC see

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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

ONCE-Mini Music & Film Review

Music that Inspires - Film that Touches the Soul
A street musician meets a his musical match - a love story without lust & sex - just mutual inspiration. Hits top notes in both music and film.

By Vesta Copestakes

This isn't my turf, but I just have to recommend a film and CD because it's one of those experiences that leaves a trail in your mind. I love those kind. You see a movie and it haunts you because it's good - not because it's scary or intensely emotional. In this case, because it's sweet, and honest and so very human and real. And the music - the music just took up residence inside my head and heart.

I found this movie simply because I asked Joe at The Movie Library in Forestville to help me find something to take to Alan's house for an evening of watching a movie while lounging on the couch. I fail miserably with my movie choices, even when I bring three. I get lured in by intriguing visuals and off-the-wall plot descriptions. Amazing how bad some movies can be. So I asked for Joe's advice.

He told me about a movie that he hadn't seen but that many people had told him about. People said they recommended it highly - so heck - why not.

Right away I was drawn to the characters, so real and appealing. People I would want to meet. Their story was friendship. Not love and attraction and passion and lust - and certainly not even a hint at violence. Just good friendship. Two people who meet and start making music together. They never fall in love, never jump into bed together even though there's a little hint that they could. Their lives have complexities that are real without drama - just real. Their music and the evolution of the music that comes from their friendship is real and - well - musical! They pull together other people to play with them. The relationships they have with other people in their lives - the whole movie - it's just real. And yet it's a movie.

I like the music so much, Alan bought me the CD for my birthday, and with it is a DVD of how they made the movie. Even that's interesting. Amazing actually!

So I'm passing Joe's advice on that he got from others. Apparently “Once” has left a trail of recognition from Sundance Film Festival out into the universe. Pick up the movie and enjoy. And if you're like me, the music will lure you to wanting to hear it more. And you get the bonus of the DVD that gives you the inside story of how this all came together. I am so impressed.


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